Fell over a wheel stop after I was clocked out...
(Cullowhee, NC, USA)
I work swing shifts as a paramedic. While I was off there was some construction done on the inside of the building. There was a concrete wheel stop that was moved from the inside of the building to the outside. This wheel stop was not painted nor did it have any distinctive markings. There were cars parked over top of it and I never noticed it was there.
One of my coworkers had stopped by and I stopped to talk to her, she had parked in that spot. After that I went to my car to put my things in, and take a cup and throw it in the trash on the inside of the building. As I was walking toward the building I tripped over the wheel stop and went head first into the building, landing with almost all my weight on my left knee. I do believe I was knocked out for a few seconds.
I still have a small pump knot on my head and this accident happened six weeks ago. At the time of the fall I was unable to get up. I had put my phone in the car, so luckily I had my department radio on my side. I called our dispatch and told them I had fell and asked them to send the on duty ambulance crew back to the base. They had went next door to the school for a basketball game. They came over and helped me up and my husband came and took me to the hospital.
I was X-rayed and there was nothing broken, but was told not to work the next day. I was not scheduled to go back to work until Tuesday night, the accident happened on Saturday. I went back to work, my knee began to hurt worse.
I told my supervisor I was going to try to stick it out until my day off on Friday. My knee was not getting better so he advised me to go back to the ER, which I did and was referred to the orthopedic doctor. He wanted me to have an MRI. The MRI showed a piece of chipped bone and some other debris floating around in my knee.
We decided to try a cortisone shot to see if that would help, if not I may have to have minor surgery to have it cleaned up. I was supposed to go back to see him, but my knee has only gotten worse. Now, I just received notice that workman's comp has denied my claim because I was already off the clock.
My question is: Can I be denied because I was clocked out, or is this a legitimate claim? If I am denied, how else am I supposed to get coverage for these injuries? Isn't the owner of the premises responsible? What should I do next? Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Fell over a wheel stop after I was clocked out...":
Deborah (Cullowhee, NC, USA):
You raise an excellent question.
In almost all cases, injuries occurring when a worker is "off the clock" are not covered by workers' compensation insurance. In your case, you were not working at the time of your injury. As a result, you will likely not succeed in an appeal of your claim.
In the alternative, under the facts you present you have the basis of a personal liability claim against the landowner. Under the legal theory of premises liability, a landowner has a legal duty of care to keep his or her premises safe so as to avoid injury or harm to a person legally upon the property.
In your case, you were legally on the property, and as a result, have a legitimate personal injury claim against the landowner.
Contact the landowner and explain how and when you were injured. Hopefully, the landowner will cooperate and refer you to his or her insurance company. From there, you can pursue her claim for your "damages." Your damages can include the cost of your medical and/or chiropractic bills, out of pocket expenses for prescription and over the counter medications, crutches, etc., your lost wages while treating and recovering, and your pain and suffering.
In some cases injured persons can handle their own personal injury claims. These are mostly "soft tissue" injuries such as sprained muscles, tendons or ligaments, minor cuts and bruises, etc.
Your injuries are more serious. As a result, you will be best served by retaining a personal injury attorney. Serious injury cases often require depositions, interrogatories, the filing of lawsuits, and even the possibility of trial. In serious injury cases a competent attorney can normally secure a much higher settlement or court award than a layperson might.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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